The Council’s five-year strategy, published in November 2021, identifies the five objectives that are our main priorities for 2021 to 2026 and the actions we are taking to achieve them. This page charts the progress we have made on those actions.

Timings are provisional; more precise timings are set out in our business plans.

Strategic objective 1: The Council will promote consistency and transparency in sentencing through the development and revision of sentencing guidelines

Action Provisional timing Progress to date
Support consistent and transparent sentencing by continuing to produce and revise guidelines in accordance with published criteria. Specific guidelines produced or revised will be a result of the Council’s annual discussions on priorities and will be included in annual business plans Ongoing Ongoing
Ensure that all relevant issues are taken into account when considering guidelines for development, or evaluation, by reviewing and updating our guideline development/ revision criteria Completed; published in August 2021 Completed and published
Review the Totality guideline in the light of research findings and make any necessary changes Consult on draft guideline by October 2022 Research was published in September 2021; this has been reviewed, and the Council has decided to make changes to the current guideline. A consultation on the changes will be issued in 2022
Ensure that we draw fully on all relevant perspectives by formally considering at the outset of each guideline project whether to bring in additional external expertise to support a guideline’s development. Ongoing from June 2021 Ongoing; since issuing the strategy document in November 2021, we have engaged with relevant stakeholders, for example Trading Standards on the  guideline on Underage Sale of Knives, and the RSPCA on the animal cruelty guidelines
Ensure guidelines remain relevant and up to date by undertaking an annual consultation on cross-cutting and/ or minor revisions to guidelines Consultation to be issued annually from September 2021 Completed for 2021. A further consultation will be issued in 2022
Ensure minor uncontentious amendments to guidelines, that do not require consultation, are clear and transparent to all users by publishing a log of these Published as changes are made The log is updated as necessary
Enable users to feedback on guidelines by providing a mechanism to report errors or difficulties Completed; feedback function available from September 2021 Completed; as at 31 May 2022 we had received 54 queries via this route. Several have resulted in minor corrections to guidelines, others have been noted as requests for guidelines or for consideration in the annual consultation on cross-cutting and/ or minor revisions to guidelines

 

Strategic objective 2: The Council will ensure that all our work is evidence based and work to enhance and strengthen the data and evidence that underpin it

Action Provisional timing Progress to date
Support the development and evaluation of guidelines by continuing to access and analyse sentencing data – including on impacts and resources – and ensure this is understood and informs Council decision-making Ongoing Ongoing
Provide evidence and analysis to support the Council’s work across all of its statutory duties Ongoing Ongoing
Finalise approach as to how we might access a greater volume of data via the Common Platform and explore whether this might bring about efficiencies in the way in which we currently collect data from the courts By September 2022 This work is in progress. We have now met with colleagues working on the Common Platform, engaged with relevant judicial working groups and are continuing discussions in this area
Consider whether enhancements can be made to the way in which we measure and interpret the impact of our guidelines and our approaches to resource assessments by undertaking a review of our current practice By June 2022 An initial review of data sources has been undertaken and we issued an Invitation to Tender for a small piece of academic work to support this in January 2021. We unfortunately did not receive any bids for the work. We plan to revisit the work during 2022
Explore how the Council’s expanded explanations are being interpreted and applied by sentencers in practice by undertaking an evaluation of these Start by March 2022 Internal discussions on the scope and approach to such work are underway
Inform development of the Totality guideline by undertaking a small research study with sentencers Completed; published in September 2021 Completed and published
Explore the impact and implementation of the intimidatory offences guidelines by undertaking an evaluation Start by March 2022 Internal work on this has started
Explore the impact and implementation of the domestic abuse overarching guideline by undertaking an evaluation Start by March 2022 We are in the process of developing a specification to procure external work for an evaluation in this area
Ensure the views of all relevant parties are fully considered in the development and revision of guidelines by considering, on a case-by-case basis, whether additional specific qualitative research is required Ongoing from June 2021 Ongoing. The social research team are currently planning/ undertaking four pieces of qualitative research with sentencers, and our evaluation of the Breach guideline will draw on the views of probation officers
Collate the relevant evidence on issues related to effectiveness of sentencing and consider this as part of work to develop and revise guidelines by undertaking and publishing a review of the relevant evidence Biennially from September 2022 We commissioned external academics to conduct a literature review in this area in February 2022. This will be published in due course
Consider what further work in the area of consistency of sentencing is needed by reviewing the updated evidence in this area By September 2022 We plan to start considering this in the summer/ autumn of 2022
Consider how best to make use of local area data in our work by undertaking a review of options By March 2022 An initial review has been undertaken on this and discussed with the Analysis and Research subgroup. A note on the Council’s decision on this area has been published
Permit access to data collected by the Council by preparing and publishing our drugs data collection By June 2022 We currently plan to publish this data in July
Permit access to data collected by the Council by preparing and publishing our robbery offences data collection By September 2022 Staff turnover has led to there being a slight delay on this work; we aim to resume the work later in the year
Continue to broaden the range of analytical work we can contribute to and draw on by seeking opportunities to collaborate with academics and external organisations Ongoing from June 2021 This is ongoing. We have commissioned external academics to undertake work on equality and diversity and effectiveness in sentencing, and continue to endorse academic work for funding where relevant

 

Strategic objective 3: The Council will explore and consider issues of equality and diversity relevant to our work and take any necessary action in response within our remit

Action Provisional timing Progress to date

Explore the potential impact of sentencing guidelines on different demographic groups and groups with protected characteristics by collecting, analysing and publishing data, where this is available, and undertaking more in-depth analytical work

Ongoing from December 2020

Ongoing; we now routinely publish sentencing breakdowns by age, sex and ethnicity alongside guidelines and consultations and are exploring what more we can do in this area in the future (e.g. we will collect case identifiers in our forthcoming data collection to enable us to link to data on ethnicity, and there may be more data available in the future via the Common Platform)

Draw attention to any relevant issues relating to disparities in sentencing by providing tailored references to relevant information, to the Equal Treatment Bench Book, and to the need to apply guidelines fairly across all groups of offenders after reviewing evidence on disparity in sentencing for each guideline being developed or revised

Ongoing from December 2020

Ongoing; the relevant data is considered for all guidelines. The content within the Equality and Diversity chapter in   consultation documents has been reviewed and rewritten. There is a new emphasis on trying to explore consultees’ views on these matters within each draft guideline

Explore the potential for the Council’s work inadvertently to cause disparity in sentencing across demographic groups by commissioning independent external contractors to undertake a project to review a sample of key guidelines and processes

By December 2021

Work on this is near to completion and the Council is currently considering the findings and recommendations

Ensure any evidence of disparity in sentencing between different demographic groups is taken into account when deciding whether to develop or review a guideline by including this as a consideration in the Council’s criteria for developing and revising guidelines

Completed; published August 2021

Completed; text has been added to the Council’s updated criteria

Consider whether separate guidance is needed for female offenders or young adults by conducting an evaluation of the relevant expanded explanations and, if so, add this to our workplan

To be considered as part of the evaluation of expanded explanations

Internal discussions on the scope and approach to such work are underway

 

Strategic objective 4: The Council will consider and collate evidence on effectiveness of sentencing and seek to enhance the ways in which we raise awareness of the relevant issues

Action Provisional timing Progress to date

Ensure the Council continues to be informed on issues related to effectiveness of sentencing by publishing a research review of the relevant evidence

Biennially from September 2022

We commissioned external academics to conduct a literature review in this area in February 2022. This will be published in due course

Consider the possibility of future work with offenders to understand which elements of their sentence may have influenced their rehabilitation by undertaking a scoping exercise in this area

By September 2022

We plan to start scoping work in this area during the autumn

Consider whether any changes are required to highlight to sentencers the need to consider issues relating to effectiveness of sentencing as a result of research work in this area and any work undertaken on the Imposition guideline

From September 2022

An evaluation of the Imposition guideline is underway and when this is completed we will consider the relevance of this to the area of effectiveness

 

Strategic objective 5: The Council will work to strengthen confidence in sentencing by improving public knowledge and understanding of sentencing, including among victims, witnesses and offenders, as well as the general public

Action Provisional timing Progress to date

Ensure sentencers and other practitioners have easy and immediate access to sentencing guidelines by continuing to develop digital tools that meet their needs

Ongoing

Ongoing. The SentencingACE tool for use in the Crown Court has been launched on the Council’s website, as well as a pronouncement-card builder for use in magistrates’ courts. The card builder and a drink-drive calculator have also been published on the magistrates’ courts sentencing guidelines app. An Android version of the app is in development

Inform public audiences, including victims, witnesses and offenders, about sentencing and sentencing guidelines by continuing to develop content for our website and seek media coverage relating to key Council activities

Ongoing

Ongoing. We have refined our media strategy to reflect the five strategic objectives. In addition to publicising guideline and consultation launches, we have placed an interview with the Chairman in the Times Law Pages and another with AC Nick Ephgrave, policing member of the Council, with Police Oracle, and are actively pursuing other interview and feature opportunities. We have developed and published a series of short videos to illustrate content on our website and make it more accessible to the public

Support the effective development of guidelines by continuing to promote Council consultations to practitioners who use the guidelines and individuals and groups who could potentially be affected by the guidelines

Ongoing

Ongoing, as consultations are launched

Elicit a broader and more representative body of consultation responses to inform the development of guidelines by undertaking a review of our target audiences and how we reach them

By December 2021

Work has been commissioned by the Equality and Diversity working group to extend our field of potential consultees and the ways in which they can contribute is ongoing

Teach young people about sentencing by developing sentencing-related materials for use by organisations such as Young Citizens who already engage extensively with schools

Ongoing

Working in collaboration with Young Citizens and Judicial Office, we have developed content for Key Stage 1 and 2 (primary) teaching resource, ‘What happens when laws are broken?’. The resource supports Citizenship and PHSE (Personal, Health, Social and Economic) education

Improve our ability to inform the public about sentencing by identifying relevant organisations willing to help us engage with their stakeholders

Ongoing

Ongoing

Make our consultations more easily accessible to the Council’s public audiences by developing a template for more simplified introductions to consultation documents and embedding this within the Council’s processes

Completed May 2021

Completed; all consultations are now accompanied on our website with introductory material written specifically for public audiences

Illustrate for our audiences the range of issues considered by the Council when developing and revising guidelines and the extent to which guidelines are influenced by consultation responses, by publishing information about the Council’s processes and procedures on our website

By March 2022

The content is being developed and will shortly be published on the website

Maintain an up-to-date insight into public confidence in the criminal justice system and its drivers, and explore whether there have been any changes over time, by re-running our previous survey questions and comparing findings to our previous research

By September 2022

We commissioned an external survey company to undertake this work. The Council are currently considering the findings from this work and a report will be published during summer/ autumn 2022

Increase parliamentarians’ knowledge and understanding of our work including by discussing how best to establish regular evidence sessions with the Justice Committee

Ongoing by December 2021

The Chairman attended a closed meeting of the Justice Committee in December 2021 where he spoke about the work of the Council and sentencing more generally. We are continuing to liaise with the Committee  about a more formal evidence session in the first half of 2022 but no date or topic has been set yet